The Sharjah International Film Festival for Children & Youth (SIFF) continues to introduce new selections of films for families to enjoy and learn from on its popular ‘Our Home Cinema’ online film platform. Started from July 12, it began streaming a collection of short films that explore refugee experiences from around the world.
The wide selection – from 1- to 2-minute films that pack a powerful punch, to 10- to 20-minute long short films – made by filmmakers from Canada, Lebanon, Ethiopia, Iceland, Kenya, Syria, USA and Egypt, delve into the lives of the protagonists to make stark statements about the bleak realities of stateless peoples in an unfriendly world.
The films include: Do You Remember Your Childhood Dreams? from Lebanon, about a small girl, Razan, and countless Syrian children like her, who have spent their entire lives in refugee camps. She lives in squalor, has little or nothing to eat and often misses school. Yet, she has hopes and dreams – of going back to Syria to live with her grandmother who she has never met; having all the food she can have; and becoming a doctor. In a touching moment, Razan gets to meet UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Ben Stiller when he visits the camp she stays at and tells him she wants to be a ‘princess’.
Ethiopia: Nyahok’s Quest charts the life of 16-year-old Nyahok who dreams of becoming a pilot. She lives in a camp in Gambella, Ethiopia. But Nyahok has not finished primary school and only has a slim chance of going to secondary school. Over 50 percent of refugee children there do not attend school. So, what are the chances of children like Nyahok getting an education and making their dreams come true?
RefuSHE Kenya’s Safe House is a life-affirming documentary that chronicles the resilience of young female refugees in Sub Saharan Africa. Every week the girls organise a fashion show which encourages them to be strong, proud, and confident as they take to the runway. It is a special moment for them when UNHCR special envoy and Hollywood star Angelina Jolie makes an appearance as a guest at their show.
Filmmaker Marco Bollinger returns to the Saadnayel refugee camp in Lebanon to teach a video storytelling workshop to the same girls he has been following over the four years he shot Safe House – 4 Years Later. As the girls enter adolescence and face complex life decisions like marriage, the young women co-create a unique perspective on their own lives, shooting much of the film themselves, interviewing each other, co-directing and ultimately interviewing Bollinger, posing many of the same questions they ask of each other.
The selection also includes Spend a Day With Bertine; The Dream Diaries; Sudanese Refugee Girl Chases Education Dream in Egypt; Somali YouTuber in Iceland Inspires Young Girls Globally; Syria: A Young Girl Scarred by War; Ivorian Orphan Girls Beat Back Statelessness; and Abducted Iraqi Boy Reunites With Family in Canada.
SIFF is organised annually by FUNN – Sharjah Media Arts For Youth and Children. FUNN was established under the patronage of Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, wife of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah and Chairperson of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs, to promote and support media arts learning and appreciation (animation, filmmaking, graphic design, etc.) among the children and youth of Sharjah and UAE.
FUNN aims to nurture a future generation of creative artists in media and film industry, and promotes new media works and films made by children and young filmmakers in the UAE at international film festivals and conferences worldwide. Its larger goal is to foster talent through these festivals, conferences, and workshops locally and internationally.